I read a blog recently that really got me thinking. I’ll summarise his point, but really you should read it for yourself (I might reblog it, but for now you’ll find it at oneaardvark.wordpress.com – it’s called “Catharsis of Mundanity” – a really enjoyable read) . A couple of times a year the author has a chore of cleaning the floor of an outside shower at some place of his. Not exactly an easy task, but he takes great pleasure in switching off the brain and just cleaning the gunk out of in between the cracks, the mould and so on. He says that when he does it, the clean floor is a reminder that he has been here. That he has done something. And that it’s okay to just be here. One of those zen moments I’m guessing.
Just being here. I like it. I’m a funny kind of guy. On the one hand I agonise over purpose, want to make my life count, am often hard on myself (I call myself a reformed perfectionist, but I’m still more of a perfectionist than not), and yet on the other hand I realise what a wonderful thing it is to be alive. The beauty of the world, the joy of good books, of intimate moments (sexual and non-sexual), good food, the sun filling the sky with its beams and turning the sky blue – I really could go on and on.
A couple of weeks ago I did something that I normally never do – I went out into the backyard and did nothing. Just stood, looked, and tried to do nothing. A deliberate attempt at mindfulness, a practice I wholeheartedly believe in but find very difficult to do.
It’s all a little vague now, but I remember looking at our clothes line – an old thing with sagging lines and a faded green colour. I found myself looking at the corners where the metal shafts stick out from the hub and hold the line up, and noticed the rust on the bolts and the wisps of spiderweb that spanned a short distance from the shaft to the lines. Just noticed the detail that my eyes would normally never see and that my brain would ignore (it’s usually too busy taking in the big picture). It wasn’t a beautiful sight in any normal sense, but it was, for want of a better word, unique, and in my willingness to just stand and stare, it was interesting and intriguing. If you like, a small sense of the wonder of the world crept over me. I wondered where the spider was who created the web, I wondered how long it had taken for the rust to develop, I wondered…
That’s what little children do. Everything is new to them, and everything is interesting and wondrous. They gaze at things that we walk past. They are fascinated by things that we take for granted, because they are new to them. They are seeing it for the very first time. I thought to myself out there in the backyard, can I find something just to gaze on? I did, and it was, well, curiously uplifting.
How was it uplifting? Not sure really. Maybe it was that my senses became heightened. The sky was bluer, the spider web was more tangible, I could almost feel the rust even though I didn’t touch it. Even the faded colour of green metal, while not pretty, kind of reminded me how solid it all was, that it had been around for a long time and was still here. I don’t know…
But it was an enjoyable experience. And when I read of this guy working hard to clean a gunky floor, sweating under the hot sun, and knowing in a few months time he’ll have to do it all again, I kind of get it.
For him it’s a reminder that he is here. He exists. And there’s the proof, his clean shower floor. And that’s enough. And for that time, he is ’emotionless’ for want of a better word. Just him, the sun, the brush, the activity.
Although he does this every 6 months or so, I’m guessing that he doesn’t try to have the same experience, because nothing kills an experience more than trying to have it. The best way to kill love, for example, is to try and make yourself feel it over and over again. Therefore, it’s living in the moment, taking in this experience, right now, no matter how simple or even mediocre, that makes our world come alive. I know when I play in the band there’s no point getting upset if I’ve hit a wrong note or if the lead singer has forgotten the words (again!). I’m here right now playing this song and I may as well enjoy every second of it, because “I will not pass this way again”. Yes, I might be in this same pub again next month and play the same song, but I won’t get this moment back, so, as long as it’s not a train wreck (and that can happen) then I’m just going to enjoy it for what it is.
So that’s what I I did in the backyard – enjoyed the moment, however trivial. And that’s what the shower scrubber did – took in the sights, sounds, experiences, and in his case the satisfaction of a job well done, to simply say, I’m here, and that’s enough.